Lone Star Park opened its 15th season last night, with Lydia’s Last Step taking the first step into the Winner’s Circle.
One expects a festival type of atmosphere on opening night; an evening rife with giddy anticipation and optimism during the upcoming weeks. Just the possibility of being the handicapping genius and/or lucky boob that scores a big fat payday on a winning 10-cent superfecta is enough to buoy anyone’s spirits. However, oddly enough, the opening night sizzle never quite materialized. And frankly, I’m unable to pinpoint exactly what element was missing.
Perhaps it was the familiarity of the pre-race ceremonies. Traditionally, a giant Texas flag is unfurled by a large contingent of high school kids, and everybody puts down their beers, listen to God Bless America and gets teary-eyed. However, last night the wind was whipping down the stretch at gusts of 30-40 mph, and do you know what that does to giant unfurled flags? It was a massive waving monster! The kids struggled to maintain their grips, a few of them completely unable to hold onto it. And the only thing I could think of at the time was that I needed to get this on video - if the flag wrested free from the handlers it would blow all the way to New Mexico! That would make for great YouTube!
Or maybe some of the onus goes to the self-serve AmTote kiosks. It’s the first day of live racing and they should be running like a well-oiled machine, but many performed like a rusted-out 1980 Chevette. Touch screens were temperamental and paper jams swallowed up vouchers. The self-serve banks of tote machines are very popular with the bettors at Lone Star but more than one person voiced a little frustration.
Or perhaps hot dog buns should receive a little blame, too. Lone Star Park could sure use buns with some courage. It’s a great source of irritation when a hot dog bun splits into two pieces. My Grand Prairie Dog was placed in a wimpy bun that broke in half immediately and, I’m sorry to say, there is no tidy way to eat a hot dog in a broken bun with mustard and relish and onions dripping all over your hands and you’re a sticky mess by the time you’re done eating and then you have to go to the bathroom to wash up but it’s on your way to the bathroom that you run into the Vice President of the racetrack who recognizes you and sticks out his hand in greeting and you have no choice to shake his hand with your sticky mustard-covered hand.
Perhaps there was some kind of cosmic misalignment in the Premiere Stakes itself. The favorite, Coyote Legend, broke through the gate in a false start; his regular rider, fan favorite Bobby Walker Jr., was notably absent, having broken [fill in bone here]. Coyote Legend didn’t recover from his miscue, and rallied to come in second to Lydia’s Last Step. And I’m sorry – no gelding should be named “Lydia” or any kind of variant or phrase or otherwise. It’s a girl’s name. They should refer to him as “Pete”.
Regardless of tote machine malfunctions and flimsy hot dog buns and boys named “Lydia”, Lone Star Park remains committed to live racing and providing great entertainment for fans. It’s no secret that the racetrack has struggled with ownership problems, but the team is hanging tough. The Lone Star Music Series kicks off tonight with the Randy Rogers Band, and tomorrow is The Nuge himself, Ted Nugent. Additionally, the racetrack now offers two new wagers: The 10-Cent Super Hi-Five and the Fortune 6.
FYI: Last night’s premier 10-Cent Super Hi-Five paid $1,666.65. And it wasn’t me. Maybe that was the missing element?
Lydia's Last Step, winner of the 2011 Premiere Stakes, Lone Star Park. Trainer J.R. Caldwell, jockey Bryan McNeil.